Folic acid is found in various foods, including spinach, orange juice and yeast. Adequate levels of folic acid are essential for brain function, and folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders such as depression and cognitive impairment. Folate supplementation, either by itself or in conjunction with other B vitamins, has been shown to be effective in preventing cognitive decline and dementia during aging and enhancing the effects of antidepressants. The results of a recent randomized clinical trial indicate that a three-year folic acid supplementation can help reduce the age-related decline in cognitive function.
In patients with major depression and schizophrenia, levels of a signaling molecule known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, are reduced. Antidepressants elevate BDNF levels, and most treatments for depression and schizophrenia stimulate BDNF. Here, too, omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial, as is the curry spice curcumin, which has been shown to reduce memory deficits in animal models of Alzheimer's disease and brain trauma. BDNF is most abundant in the hippocampus and the hypothalamus brain areas associated with cognitive and metabolic regulation.
The high consumption of curcumin in India may contribute to the low prevalence of Alzheimer's disease on the subcontinent.
In humans, a mutation in a BDNF receptor has been linked to obesity and impairments in learning and memory.
"BDNF is reduced in the hippocampus, in various cortical areas and in the serum of patients with schizophrenia," Gmez-Pinilla said. "BDNF levels are reduced in the plasma of patients with major depression."
Smaller food portions with the appropriate nutrients seem to be beneficial for the brain's molecules, such as BDNF, he said.
Gmez-Pinilla showed in 1995 th
|Contact: Stuart Wolpert|
University of California - Los Angeles